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GOP unveils program to get Republicans voting early: We need a 'change of culture'

Conservatives have called on the party to emphasize early voting after a disappointing 2022 midterms and a yearslong campaign by Trump and his allies to cast doubt on the system.
Ronna McDaniel speaks during the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks at the committee's winter meeting in Dana Point, Calif., on Jan. 27.Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images file

The Republican National Committee on Wednesday announced a new program to "maximize" pre-Election Day voting among Republicans following a yearslong effort by former President Donald Trump and allies to cast doubt on the early voting system.

Dubbed "Bank Your Vote," the RNC-led program aims to encourage Republican voters on how to lock in their votes as early as possible "through in-person early voting, absentee voting, and ballot harvesting where legal," a party press release said. The program will be carried out in conjunction with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee.

After an underwhelming midterm election cycle, party leaders ramped up calls to make a stronger effort at getting Republicans to cast early votes, citing a significant disadvantage the party faced in key swing states where Democrats took full advantage of various voting methods.

Trump and aligned candidates, however, continued a crusade to cast doubt over the legitimacy of early and mail-in balloting, limiting how many Republicans felt comfortable casting such votes.

“We’ve got to have a change of culture among Republican voters," Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, chairman of the NRCC, said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "And it’s going to require us all on the same page."

Even Trump may be slowly coming around. Although he continues to wrongly insist the 2020 election he lost was rigged, he has suggested the party needs to change its attitude toward early voting, and his campaign last month promoted a "ballot harvesting fund."

Republicans have derided third-party ballot collection as "harvesting" for years. The process involves volunteers or other individuals collecting completed ballots and turning them in to collection sites rather than voters submitting them personally.

Asked about the push from Trump and allies to delegitimize early voting in recent cycles, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said such efforts were harmful, but she believes they're in the rearview mirror. The party's presidential field, including Trump, is now talking up the importance of early voting, she added.

"It’s simple math: You want to get as many votes in before Election Day," she said. "But that certainly is a challenge if you have people in your ecosystem saying don’t vote early or don’t vote by mail. And those cross messages do have an impact. I don’t think you’re seeing that heading into 2024. I think you’re seeing all of us singing from the same song."

"We’re going to need all of all of us saying this to help voters feel comfortable voting early," she added.

The rationale for such a push is straightforward: More early voting will allow Republicans to better allocate resources in the closing weeks of campaigns, cut off the large disparities in some states between Democratic and Republican vote totals ahead of Election Day and maximize their vote share by limiting last-minute surprises like illness or poor weather that could prevent voters from casting ballots on Election Day.

"We have some voters that like to vote on Election Day, and we have to explain to them we can't allow Democrats to get a head start," McDaniel said. "We don't want to wait till the fourth quarter to start scoring touchdowns when you have four quarters to put points on the board."

Officials made clear that the party’s ground game will play a key role in the “Bank Your Vote” program. McDaniel was asked about a recent NBC News report in which canvassing insiders detailed what they described as systemic issues with door-knocking, both through official party channels and conducted by outside groups, that included an increase in cheating and allegations of lax hiring practices.

"When it comes to the canvassers ... I can't speak to that," McDaniel said in reference to a Nevada operation detailed in the NBC News report. "I don't know if they were hired by the campaigns or who hired those canvassers, or what company used them. Certainly, we don't want to be hiring people that are not safe. And we will make sure that there's a stringent vetting process with any of those paid efforts and certainly with the companies that they're hiring."